Trenton Avenue is a bit of an oddity in the Fishtown/East Kensington area, ostensibly due to its unusual history. The street was originally laid out as a railroad line which went all the way to Trenton, hence the name. The line started (or ended, depending on where you were coming from) at a train station at Front & Montgomery, a property that’s now the Kensington CAPA, and eventually became a freight line, shipping goods from the Workshop of the World to points north via the capital of New Jersey. Most of that train line still exists once you cross Lehigh Avenue, eventually merging into the train line currently used by the Septa Regional Rail Trenton Line. Though it’ll always be the R7 in our hearts.
One might think that a street that doubled as a railroad would result in city planners surrounding the street with industrial or commercial buildings to keep residences away from the tracks. While that’s a no brainer if you’re playing Sim City, it seems it’s not something that really occurred to people back in the day. Sure, there were factories, warehouses, and coal yards around the tracks, but there were also plenty of homes. Figure people were breathing in toxins all day while working at factories, maybe the soot from the trains was a welcome change of pace. Or maybe breathing was just terrible all the time.
The East Kensington spur of the rail line fell out of use once the rail yard closed on Front Street, and we believe the tracks were covered in the 1970s or 1980s. In recent years, with Fishtown booming and East Kensington also seeing tremendous development, there’s been quite a bit of construction on Trenton Avenue. The projects run the gamut, but most of the development has been of the single family home variety, like the Trenton Stables project on the 2200 block. These homes were built a few years back and most recently, one of them traded at over $600K.
There’s a rather odd property at 2214 Trenton Ave., just across the street from these homes. This parcel is jumbo-sized, roughly 40′ wide and 90’s deep. There’s an old home on the lot which only has frontage on maybe 30% of the property and enjoys a tremendous amount of open space in its “front” yard. This would be a dream home for someone with pets or young kids, though the condition of the home looks to be a little rough around the edges at this point.
The condition of the home is a bit academic though, since it will soon be torn down. As the ZBA notices suggest, developers have the property under agreement and have a plan to tear it down and replace it with three homes. We assumed that the three homes would run deep into the property like the existing home, but instead the developers are planning three 13′-wide homes with huge rear yards, all fronting Trenton Avenue. This is a fairly common width for a home in this part of town, even though it’s a few feet narrower than any developer might prefer. And sure, the three homes will fit in better with the surrounding homes than the current setup. On the whole, the project makes sense, but we’ll still be bummed that this project will mean that another funky property will bite the dust.